Saturday, August 1, 2015

Summer Saltspring

I've been working through my summer bucket list: s'mores, fireworks, (tofu) hot dogs, a drive-in movie, popsicles, food trucks, a picnic, and of course, a new sundress. I decided to join the fun for Handmade by Heather B's Sundress Sewalong 2015. I love the rayon challis Sewaholic Saltspring I made last spring so much that I had to make a second.


This time I made a straight size 6 and did braided straps like Caroline. I was hoping to get away with making only three straps, braiding them together and then cutting the braid in half, but it was about an inch too short. I had to go back and repeat the whole process over again (womp, womp), but I love how the straps came out! I used the length of the tied straps on my first Saltspring as a guide.

I also went back and added a skirt lining towards the end. I was pretty lazy and tried this on over my clothes throughout, but I did a proper try-on at the end to decide on the hem length and discovered that it was much more sheer than I originally thought. Oooops. At least I discovered this in my bathroom and not looking at blog pictures later. I used this method from the sewalong and cut off about 2 inches from the bottom.

Other than that, there's not a whole lot else different about the construction. I did do a machine invisible hem this time because the handstitched hem on my first one is, to be completely honest, not great. I just don't have the patience for handsewing, and hemming is by far my least favorite part of dressmaking already. I'll take a slightly-more-visible hem over hours of trying (and mostly failing) to keep tiny hand stitches even.

The fabric is a bit outside of my usual color pallet, but I actual love how obnoxiously bright this is. I found about five yards of this drapey poly blend at a thrift store for 3 dollars and snatched it right up. It's a breezy, effortless dress that screams "summer".

Until next time, I'll be soaking up every minute of summer, reading in the shade by the pool and making infinity batches of fruit bars with my new popsicle molds. Happy summer!

Saturday, July 4, 2015

Timey-Wimey Skirt

Back in the spring, JoAnn's put out a line of Doctor Who fabrics, and apparently they sold like hotcakes because I found myself impulsively driving waaaaaay OTP (Outside The Perimeter, aka the 'burbs) to go to the only JoAnn's in greater metropolitan Atlanta with any left in stock. I literally stole the bolt off a pallet of new merchandise tucked in the corner, removed the wrapping and nonchalantly presented it to the lady at the cutting counter, who asked me what the blue boxes were among all the pretty swirls. I tried to explain, but sometimes Muggles just don't understand the need to make skirt celebrating a British sci-fi show.

I'd say the trip was worth it! This is my third iteration of Simplicity 2226 (Version 1 and Version 2). It's the perfect pattern for stiffer quilting cottons and prints that might be a bit much as a full dress, so I returned to it again. I love a good pattern repeat.

This time I got smart about the excessive ease in this pattern and sized down to a 10 in the waist.  Halfway through I became nervous that it would be too tight if I had a big lunch and let it back out a bit on the side seams and center back. It's a little big now but my measurements have fluctuated over the past year and better safe than sorry. Other than that, I made all the same changes as my previous comic book version, so not much to say about construction. The print is really the star of the show anyway.

I must have re-done the gathers three times over a couple of days. Gathers, it seems, will always be my Achilles heel. Invisible zip? No problem. Smooth dart points? I'm on it. Gathers? Well, settle in, because it's going to be a looooong afternoon.

As always, the pockets are my favorite part. The construction is cleverly done, so you have roomy pockets without bulk. Exactly what you need to go on timey-wimey adventures.

Saturday, June 20, 2015

Summer Plaid Belcarra

Hello again! I'm so happy to be back. Things got preeetttyyy intense at work this spring, and after putting in long hours I didn't have any brain cells left over to figure out fitting problems and tricky instructions. After three wadders in a row I decided sewing just wasn't in the cards for a while and instead I read a lot of books and comics (Ms. Marvel is my JAM).

But now I'm back! And I made a plaid Sewaholic Belcarra top that I plan to wear 8574 times this summer. 

This is the perfect shirt to make in plaid, because you only really have to worry about plaid matching the side seams. I did a pretty bang up job too, if you'll allow me to brag for a moment:

I'm usually an 8 in the shoulders in Sewaholic, but the muslin came out big so I did an 6 in the shoulders and bust and then blended to a 4 in the hips. I took 2" off the length because I knew I'd never tuck it in. It's a little bit of a wriggle to get it on, but I wouldn't want it any looser. I think it strikes a nice balance of being breezy but not boxy.

My bra straps do have a tendency to peek out, and if I make it again I'll probably bring the neckline in just a tad. I do think the portrait neckline is very flattering though. I also took in the underarms by about an inch because the sleeves were a bit too billowy on me.

The fabric is some kind of linen voile that I found at a thrift store. Two yards for only $2! And I had to include the little pocket because they look so great on plaid shirts cut on the bias.

Construction was super straightforward. I had a little trouble understanding the pocket instructions, but a quick visit to the sewalong cleared that right up. This was the perfect quick project to get my sewjo back.

Well I'm off to make broccoli slaw for a potluck tonight. We're going to have a water balloon fight and make s'mores around a fire pit like overgrown children. But there will definitely be more sewing. I have plans for an exploding TARDIS skirt for DragonCon and a second Sewaholic Saltspring. Happy Summer!

Sunday, January 18, 2015

Pattern repeats are awesome

Recently I made up new versions of two patterns I've used in the past, the Sewaholic Renfrew and Colette Beignet. It was a good reminder of just how much I like returning to old patterns. You're really free to enjoy the experience when you take the sizing guesswork out!

First up, I made this Renfrew out of an impulse addition to my Girl Charlee cart. It's completely ridiculous and makes me laugh every time I wear it. Best $6.50 ever spent.

I think I've got the Renfrew fit alllllmost perfect. This time I did a size 8 in the shoulders, a 6 in the bust and then blended to a 4 in the hips. I also did a 1/2" broad back adjustment using Sunny's method like I have in the past, but somehow it still felt really tight in the shoulders/armpits and I had to let it out. I saw a different method in the most recent issue of Threads magazine that I'm going to try next time around.

I also tried interfacing the hem with lightweight Stitch Witchery before I used my twin needle, and it came out so much better than the hem on my Lady Skater did with Wonder Tape. I'll be sticking with interfacing in the future, especially for lighter weight knits. 

I was inordinately proud that I was able to squeeze this out of a single yard of fabric without sacrificing pattern matching. I did a Breakfast Club-style air fist when I was left with my teeny tiny pile of scraps. I felt like such a cutting wizard! Or, maybe more appropriately, like a Boss Witch.

Secondly, I finished my Colette Beignet do-over! I was gutted last fall when my special birthday outfit turned out to be such a bust. Luckily I had enough corduroy left over to give it another go, and this time it came out much, much better!

The first version came out too big, and in attempt to make it fit better I cinched the waist and ended up with crooked buttons. This time I sewed up a straight size 4, and the fit is much improved. I worked really hard to get the buttons straight and even, but they're still not perfect and my eye starts to twitch if I look too closely. My machine has a 4 step buttonhole, and it's hard to be 100% consistent every time no matter how carefully you make your markings. Still, it's at least not in-your-face wonky like the first version, so I'm calling it a win.

I'm still not convinced that this is the most flattering silhoutte for my figure, but it's nice to know that I am capable of sewing this intermediate pattern. Sometimes I just need to prove to myself I CAN do a thing, so that I know in the future I'm choosing not to do it because I really don't want to, not because I'm afraid to fail.

It's funny looking back at how difficult I found this pattern to be a year ago. I really struggled with the lining and the waistband, and this time I didn't find it that challenging, just time consuming. It was a really gratifying, tangible example of how much my skills have grown in the past year, and it makes me even more excited to take on new projects and new challenges. Next up, Ginger Jeans in stretch corduroy!

Tuesday, December 30, 2014

2014 Year in Review

It's been a while hasn't it? I'm almost finished with a do-over Beignet skirt I've been working on for ages, and I made two new pillow covers to go with our new couch. Home dec is boring so I decided to get fancy and make my own piping, despite my recent pledge to never make piping again. I am a liar. I'll have pictures soon, but for now I wanted to check in to do my year-end wrap up!

This has been a really great year for sewing. I only made 9 garments, but amazingly all of them (all of them!) were hits. I'm a slow sewer and have several other hobbies, so I'm thrilled to have a few well-made and well-loved garments over a bunch of quick "meh" ones. Here are my Top 3:

3. Spider-Man Dress

I only got to wear this for one night at DragonCon, but oh, what a night it was! I had such a good time doing the Retro/Pin-up Superheroes group costume with my girlfriends. Plus, this was the most technically challenging thing I've ever made, and I was so relieved that the weeks of effort, ripped stitches and fabric indecision paid off. I felt like the fit was spot on, and aside from some collar issues I'm proud of the construction.

2. Strathcona Tee

It's just a simple tee shirt, but Brian LOVES this thing. He swears it's the most comfortable shirt he owns, and brags to everyone who will listen that I made it. It's touching that he is so appreciative of the time I spent working on the fit. I already bought fabric to make more.

1. Buffalo Check Shirt Dress

Hands down my favorite thing I've ever made. The pattern, fabric and fit alterations came together to make the world's most perfect dress. I wear it when I'm feeling a little nervous and need a boost of fabulous.

As far as misses, this year I really only had one: the Miette Cardigan.

I won't dwell on it because it makes me supremely cranky to think about the dozens of hours I put into this bat-winged wadder. People keep telling me it's not that bad, but I can't bring myself to wear it around the house, let alone in public. Lesson learned: Sometimes  a pattern just doesn't work for your body and you should accept it and move on immediately, instead of a year and thousands of stitches later.

I feel like this year was a turning point where I went from stumbling around in the dark to feeling more confident and ready to take on new challenges. My big goal for 2015 is jeans! I have been having the worst time finding jeans that fit, so I decided to be brave and give it a go. I recently bought the Ginger Jeans pattern and denim, so wish me luck!

Saturday, November 15, 2014

Lady Skater

I've been trying to up my knits game recently, and after success with the Renfrew and Strathcona Tees, I decided to take the full on plunge into a dress. I waffled for a while between the Colette Moneta and the Kitschy Koo Lady Skater, and eventually went with the Lady Skater, because, reality check, I suck at gathers. And I have to say, I think I made the right call.

Although it was an uphill battle the whole way because of my fabric choice. I always have to make things difficult for myself don't I? I bought this rayon knit impulsively from when they had a free shipping deal and I was feeling too lazy to drive to the burbs. When it arrived in the mail, I was disappointed to discover that it was thinner, stretchier and more sheer than I was expecting. Womp womp. Still I liked the print and I hate letting things go to waste so I decided to just go for it.

I made a bodice muslin out of the leftover fabric from Brian's Scracotha Tee, and it fit remarkably well. I usually need to add an inch to the waist because I'm tall, but this pattern seems to be pretty long-waisted and I ended up taking it out. I was also very pleased that the sway back adjustment from the Kitschy Koo blog worked like a charm.

My muslin was a straight size 3 in a stable knit, and it was a little clingy at the waist so I decided to grade out to a size 4. Big mistake. My thin, stretchy knit just grew and grew and grew as I sewed this up and I had to take it in twice. I have no idea what size I ended up with, but I think in general this dress (at least on my body) needs a pretty fitted waist. I also had to take in the underarm by a good inch and half and narrow the sleeves. Looking at these pictures, it looks like maybe I could have taken it in a little more.

The hems on the skirt and sleeves were a nightmare. I used about a mile of WonderTape, and still had some tunneling with my twin needle. I think a really stretchy knit like this needs a full on fusible web tape. I managed to smooth it into submission with a combination of steaming and pressing, but I'm a little nervous to see how it looks when it comes out of the wash.

As frustrating as the process was, I am pretty happy with the pattern and the finished product. I think the neckline is very flattering:

 And I LOVE the swish of the skirt. It's perfect for playing in the leaves on a fall day.

 Here are the details:

  • Pattern: Kitschy Koo Lady Skater PDF - This was a reasonable number of pages and easy to put together, but I was slightly annoyed that the sizes were distinguished by color because I don't have a color printer.
  • Fabric: 2 1/2 yards of rayon blend knit
  • Sizing: 3 in the shoulders, and probably a 3 in the waist and skirt as well.
  • Alterations
    • 1/2" broad shoulder adjustment
    • 1/2" swayback adjustment
    • Added 1" to length of sleeves instead of using cuffs.
    • Added 1 1/4" to length of skirt but later cut off 1", so really no change
  • What I'd change for next time
    • Cut a straight size 3.
    • Don't add any length to the bodice, and maybe make it a smidge shorter. It's hard to tell where I landed with how the fabric stretched out as I sewed.
    • Don't add any length to the skirt.

I'm already planning another version in a ponti knit, this time a Lady Skater-Renfrew mash up with a cowl neck, like this one and this one.

Sunday, October 26, 2014

Cat Lady Tofinos

I once again broke my never ever, ever - unless the the house is on fire - go outside in my pajamas rule for you guys. I guess it's not so ironclad is it? But that's how much I love you, sewing community. Not only did I go outside, but I spent 15 minutes traipsing around my apartment complex looking for sunny spot as the sun rapidly set, earning many strange looks from the dog walkers.

I was just like, what, you've never seen a grown woman at dinnertime in flannel hipster cat pajamas before? Don't you know that October is the Cat Lady Sewing Challenge, hosted by the fabulous Erin of Miss Crayola Creepy?!

The stars really aligned for this make. I knew I needed a new snuggly pair of pajamas for this winter and I had been meaning to go back to my Sewaholic Tofino pattern, since I wear my first pair all the time. When I found this hilariously perfect hipster cat flannel on sale at Joann's shortly after Erin announced the challenge, it was just too perfect an opportunity to pass up.

This time I went all-out, and made the tie belt and piping. I love how the piping came out, but oh man is it tedious to make bias strips, piece them together, sew in the cording, and then baste the piping to the pattern pieces. I think I'll probably stick to pre-made piping in the future if I can help it.

The glasses kill me! These pajamas make me ridiculously happy.

Here are the detals:
  • Pattern: Sewaholic Tofino
  • Fabric: 2 3/4 yards of novelty flannel from Joann Fabric, and 1 1/2 yards of plain flannel for the piping and belt. It was suspiciously cheap, so it probably won't wear well over time, but I just couldn't resist those hipster cats!
  • Sizing: 6 at the waist, blended to a 4 for the hips
  • Alterations: I cut off about 1 1/2" inches (I should really write this stuff down) from the bottom. I'm 5'8" and these were way too long, so shorter ladies can definitely save some fabric and made this adjustment from the beginning.
  • What I'd change for next time: Nothing! I'm not fussy about the fit of pajamas, and these are super comfortable.

As a parting gift, here's my impression of Selena Kyle (aka Catwoman), the ultimate Cat Lady. I don't know if you guys have been watching the new TV show Gotham, but her sole purpose in the show seems to be needlessly crouching all across Gotham and stealing milk for kittens. It's kind of a terrible show, in that absurd, so-bad-it's-good kind of of way, and I highly recommend it.

I can't wait to see all of the other Cat Lady makes. Until next time, dear readers!